At GradFund we often tell students about the benefits of “starting early” when it comes to working on fellowship and grant applications, but what does that really mean? How early is early enough? Read on for a sample month-by-month breakdown of what you should be doing to give yourself the best chances for writing a successful application.
Let’s say you’re applying for a major early career graduate fellowship, like the National Science Foundation-Graduate Research Fellowship or the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. The application deadlines for these fellowships are in the Fall Semester, which means that to put your best foot forward, begin planning in the semester before the application officially opens.
Assuming the application deadline is in November, here is a sample timeline for how to put your best foot forward:
March (9 months before the deadline): Apply to participate in the Graduate Funding Mentoring Program, GradFund’s version of a proposal writing bootcamp.
June (5 months before deadline): As we’ve written before, the summer is an excellent time to make headway on your funding applications. If you participate in the Graduate Funding Mentoring Program, you will begin to receive detailed instructions for participation in early June. Even if you are not participating in our formal mentoring programs, you can still take advantage of GradFund’s expertly curated online resources such as the GradFund Database and this blog, GradFund Conversations, to plan your own summer of application writing.
July (4 months before deadline): Although the application portal is not yet available, most funders keep the instructions and details from the previous application season on their websites for future reference. If you have not already done so, take the time to carefully read the instructions, as there are often multiple statements, each with its own page limit and prompt, to draft.
August (3 months before deadline): Official program announcements and application portals go live! Create an account now, as many fellowship applications contain additional questions or short answers that you must complete but which are not visible until you create an account.
September (2 months before deadline): If you haven’t already (remember, we are open for appointments all year, including summers), be sure to schedule an application review meeting with us at GradFund. Given that multiple awards have deadlines in the Fall semester, try to book your appointment early during this especially popular meeting season.
October (1 month before deadline): It’s getting down to crunch time! Continue revisions and remind recommendation letter writers regarding deadlines.
November (deadline this month!): Give your materials a final polish and submit!
We hope the sample timeline above offers some useful suggestions to help you start early and stay on track with drafting, revising, and submitting a competitive fellowship or grant application. For one-on-one help in crafting your own application timeline, schedule a Planning Meeting at GradFund, and once you’re ready with a draft, come see us for an Application Review Meeting.